Book Review – The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar

Book Review – The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar
Book Review – The Paper Swan by Leylah AttarThe Paper Swan by Leylah Attar
Published by Self-Published
Publication date: August 4, 2015
Genres: Adult, Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: ARC via author

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.
They lie.
For 21 days she held on.
But on Day 22, she would have given anything for the sweet slumber of death.
Because on Day 22, she realizes that her only way out means certain death for one of the two men she loves.

A haunting tale of passion, loss, and redemption, The Paper Swan is a darkly intense yet heartwarming love story, textured with grit, intrigue, and suspense. Please note: This is NOT a love triangle.

A full-length, standalone novel, intended for mature audiences due to violence, sex and language. Subject matter may be disturbing for some readers.

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Book Review:

“You can either choose love or you can choose hate, because where one lives, the other will die.”

Non-Spoiler Section

Leylah Attar’s debut novel, 53 Letters for my Lover, was an incredibly moving love story. Her newest release, The Paper Swan, is a mix of several elements: a suspenseful thriller, a love story full of loss, sacrifices, and twists and turns. The first quarter of the book I enjoyed, but ultimately the book suffered from dramatic overload, which kept me from liking the book.

I struggled with how to rate this book. On one hand, I didn’t hate it. In fact, there were moments that I liked and the writing style was overall good. But on the other hand, I had a lot of issues with it. I had originally given it a 2-star rating upon finishing. After gathering my thoughts and writing this review, I realized that I needed to edit my rating to reflect my review.

The first quarter of the book had this great momentum, packed with suspense and secrets brewing beneath the surface. In 53 Letters, Leylah Attar had a knack for telling an unconventional story and taking characters you otherwise might hate and introducing you to their vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fall in love with Damien in her follow-up. He was someone I really began to loathe. He continued doing horrible things to Skye with no apparent remorse.

“…the human psyche is a such a fragile thing, a yolk contained within a brittle shell—one crack and out it spills: a neighbor goes on a suicide mission, tribes massacre tribes, countries turn their faces away from injustices. And it all starts within, because within is where all things begin.”

This is a fiction novel, and I get that we as readers are asked to suspend disbelief often in fiction. Reading is an escape. But when you cross the line from suspending disbelief and venture into the absurd it becomes impossible to truly escape. Such is the case with this book for me. I couldn’t get lost in the book due to issues that only multiplied the further I read. The romance between the hero and heroine was not romantic to me. (I will go into more detail on that in the spoiler section). The story unfolds partially through flashbacks, but Damien’s backstory was a too long and caused the story to drag.


Click here to read my review with spoilers

The story begins with Skye being abducted after a night out on the town. She has no clue who took her. All she knows is that a man threw her in the trunk of her car with hefty dose of chloroform. He points a gun at her head with the intention of killing her, but he stops. The next thing she knows, she’s on a boat. Soon, her worst nightmares and her wildest dreams collide when she learns the truth.

In the beginning of the story, there is a void between Damien and Skye. On the surface, they have nothing in common. The abduction appeared to be random. Soon, you learn that they share a history. Damien is actually her best friend from childhood, someone she’s always carried in her heart for years, loved even.

At least fifteen years have passed since they last saw each other. Skye’s memories of the little boy she grew up with are now permanently mixed with a much more violent person. Damien is blinded by his hunger for vengeance. He’s no longer the jokester kid protecting Skye from the school bully, Gidiot. After years of working for the cartel, witnessing countless deaths and killing several people, he is a hardened man. Ruthless. And on a mission to take the most important thing from the man who took something very precious to him as a child: his mother.

The fact that Damien and Skye shared a past made it difficult for me to fully let go of all the horribly violent things he did to Skye. In turn, their love story was problematic for me. After he did these things, he said he had always loved her even when he hated her. But how do you chloroform the girl you’ve been in love with for years? How do you hold a gun to her head? How do you hit her so hard she passes out? And How do you cut off her finger? Sure, all of his years in the cartel have made him a different person, molding him into a ruthless machine. But he claimed that he loved her the whole time and that fact made it impossible believe their romance considering all the things he did to her.

I really wanted there to be a scene after she nurses him back to health where she just gets stark-raving mad at him for doing what he did to her. I wanted him to suffer more than just tasting her bad ceviche or wincing when he looked at her severed finger. I wanted her to slap him around a little, get angry at him. She forgave him way too quickly. I think we as readers were supposed to glean from Damien’s backstory that he has issues and he’s messed up but his past didn’t excuse his actions. The argument that he was blinded by pain didn’t work for me.

I had several issues with this book that hindered me from getting lost in it.

  • Would a girl who’s facing her death, in shock, terrified, and bound and gagged in the back of a car, really be thinking about the shoes she just bought? Or contemplating the next day’s newspaper headlines after she stabs her captor with the heel of her Louboutins?
  • We were asked to believe that that MaMaLu would be safe from El Charro in a Mexican prison guarded by men who take bribes from the cartel. And why wouldn’t Skye’s father just find a way to get her to the United States or put her in a safe house in Mexico? Why put her in prison?
  • I didn’t really buy that Skye failed to recognize Damien sooner after she was captured. He was four years older than her when they were separated, which would have made him around 12 or 13. It’s made pretty clear that she’s thought about him often since being separated, his face seared into her mind. I would think she would have recognized him, even all grown up.
  • There were several coincidences and after awhile it was just too much. For example: After spending eight years in prison, Damien buys the house that Skye grew up in with the intention to restore it to its original glory. Not long after the renovations begin, a little girl begins showing up at the house everyday after school. Later, the reader finds out that it’s his daughter. Skye had moved back to Mexico, and the little girl just happens to stumble upon the very house Damien lives in. Taken alone this probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much, if it were not combined with all of my other issues. But at this late point in the book, I had hit my limit.
  • He gifts her the very shoes that she wore the night he abducted her and then they have sex while she wears them.
  • For a wedding present he buys her the land where he killed El Charro and dozens of other drug cartel members in a bombing.

Many may be able to suspend disbelief for the sake of the love story, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t sold on the romance. The transition from a captive/captor relationship to the “I love him” stage was awkward, rushed, and I didn’t really feel the romance between them. I need to feel the characters falling in love and I just didn’t with this one. Like I said, maybe that was due to how unsettled I was with how Damien treated Skye. I’m sure there was a bit of Stolkholm Syndrome in there too. But I needed there to be more build up in the story.

Then the ending was too much for me.

  • At this point, Sierra (their daughter) has formed a bond with Damien, but she doesn’t know he’s her father. She walks in on Skye and Damien kissing. When she asks them why they were kissing, Skye tells her that Damien is her father. And that’s when then they proceed to tell her, in a very casual manner, that it was Damien who cut of her mother’s finger years ago. What?
  • In the final chapters of the book, all seemed to be going well. Damien and Skye are together again and are incredibly happy. Suddenly Victor, Skye’s father’s right-hand man (and the man who nearly lost his arm thanks to Damien), breaks into their house and threatens to kill them all. It was too dramatic and felt like I was having reader whiplash.


This book felt like the backstory was all manufactured around the romance this author wanted to tell, instead of having these characters and creating an organic story from them. Readers who don’t mind a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, will probably like this book more than I did. I’m finding that as I read more books, I don’t need there to be a shocker at every corner to keep me interested, some are totally okay for me. But my issue is when the plot is laden with them. Here the conflict between the captor and captive was already strong enough to keep the story going without many of the added twists and extra drama.

There were some moments of this book I liked, especially the suspenseful first quarter. But after that point, the story fell apart. Leylah Attar is a good writer and she took risks with this book. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next.

It truly makes me sad that I didn’t like this book.

1 star

* I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review - The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar

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